Vocal jazz does not appear so often in the Whaling City Sound catalogs, but if Neil Weiss publishes such an album, then it surely is worth it. And the album Stage Door Live! We’re presenting is in general a special case. Singer Dori Rubicco is one of the Directors of the Zeiterion Center for the Performing Arts in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Dartmouth, where the headquarters of Whaling City Sound is located, is part of Greater New Bedford. Dori sings accompanied by John Harrison Ill’s Quintet. This pianist is also from New Bedford, and Neil Weiss in liner notes calls him one of New Bedford’s national treasures. Moreover, it was his name that stood on the cover of one of the first albums released by Weiss’s label. And finally, it was at Zeiterion that the concert recording comprising Stage Door Live! was made May 2017. As they say, all the stars came together.
But even without astrology, this is a very worthy project. Dori Rubicco is an experienced vocalist. She came from New England, since childhood she has been involved with music and jazz in particular, being the youngest of five sisters who also sought to make their way in various kinds of art. Dori has been acquainted with John Harrison III for a very long time, since the end of the 1970s, so that their professional contacts have a long history. However, at the beginning of her career, Dori went to California, and sang in Los Angeles. Later, she traveled a lot around the country and performed as a vocalist with the Miami Jazz Ensemble, the Gerald Wiggins Trio, and the Blues Train Band. Her return to her childhood haunts marked the resumption of her collaboration with John Harrison III as well.
Stage Door Live! is the fifth album in the discography of the singer and the second for Whaling City Sound. It is curious that the quintet that accompanied her at the concert in Zeiterion was put together by Harrison III specially for this event. Some of the musicians, for example, bassist William Mayely and drummer Yaron Israel, had never even played together before. Despite this, the quintet sounds very harmonious, as you can see from the starting composition of the album Roman Sun, written by John and the only purely instrumental piece, where saxophone, piano, percussion, guitar and again the saxophone put out a very decent level of sound. But with the next song and right up to the end of the album the voice of the instruments is led by Dori Rubicco. She starts with Imagine. To me, who grew up on the original version by John Lennon, it was unusual to hear the jazz arrangement, but, I must admit, it was done with great quality and with respect to the original. But in the collection of songs presented by Dori, I still prefer the charming bossa-nova Jobim Two Kites, beautifully performed by Dory in the classical jazz style of Throw It Away by Abby Lincoln and her pulsating scat in Twisted from the trio of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. With special interest I listened to Rubicco’s only original composition, Right Here Waiting – and was not disappointed. To my taste, this is one of the best numbers in the program. And its heterogeneity, as can be seen even from this small enumeration, evidences the universality of the singer’s talent. The spectators who gathered that evening in Zeiterion were clearly not disappointed.
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